How Three Universities are Forging Ahead with Career Access
Today’s learning ecosystem is really crowded. Companies, programs, bootcamps, and more are offering learners alternative routes to what learners really want out of that ecosystem — a good or better job. Add that to rising costs for students and their families and employers beginning to drop the “degree requirement” and you have a perfect storm challenging higher education’s monopoly on workforce development.
We recently spoke with higher education leaders on how Career Access is helping them meet the needs of every student and alumni they serve. Here are our top takeaways:
Becoming More Proactive
Many of us in higher education have had the experience of a student or alumni approaching us to suggest that we create a service that we actually already offered. The learner just didn’t know it existed!
While each of our panelists were discussing the evolution of career education and how it’s become so central to the learner experience, the theme of proactivity emerged. It’s no longer enough for the learner to seek out the guidance, we have to ensure that Career Access is front and center at all times in the learner’s experience. Whether that’s meeting with department heads at Lafayette, working with student groups at Rutgers, or personalized alumni communication at Minnesota, our panelists discussed just how crucial it is to reach out to learners and stakeholders to promote the availability of those resources.
The Access HAS to be Equitable
Of course, that proactivity is even more critical when it comes to traditionally underserved populations. As Wil Jones or Rutgers University perfectly stated, “Career development is a tool for social justice.”
Learners from traditionally underserved backgrounds face unique challenges. For example, a first-generation student is likely to have half the inherited network of a continuing-generation peer. Due to that, as Mike Summers said, while “talent may be evenly distributed, opportunity is not.” Leveraging principles of Career Access while being proactive in reaching out to learners from those backgrounds gives us the opportunity to ensure that we move towards ensuring equity in those opportunities.
It Doesn’t Stop at Graduation
Alumni engagement has always been about continuing an institution’s relationship with graduates by providing them resources and communities that they ask for. And while it’s always been important, Lifelong Career Learning has really taken center stage in that relationship.
“We’ve recognized that Lifelong Career Learning is one of the most important things that alumni seek from our institution as they graduate,” Marissa Smith of the University of Minnesota shared. Even before Covid, Minnesota was investing in scalable solutions that provided career resources to their graduates when they need it. “Career growth is not linear,” Marissa continued, “and we don’t know exactly when that grad is going to need to turn back to their alma mater where they started their career education.” Scalable Lifelong Career Learning options allows Minnesota to engage those alumni with what they seek and continue a meaningful relationship between that individual and the institution.
An On-Going Challenge
Each of these institutional leaders spoke of their work as a journey, not a destination. With the rapid changes in the workforce and learning ecosystem, it’s crucial that an institution take the right approach while constantly listening to their stakeholders and learners to understand how they might shift their offerings to meet a new need. However, a Career Access framework gives institutions a foundation from which to meet those ever-changing needs and differentiate their work from new entrants in the market.